Benefits of Engaging Estate Planning Lawyers When Drafting a Will

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Drafting and updating estate planning documents like the will, health care directives, and trusts is important to ensure your wishes are honored when you die. Research shows 71.6% of Americans die without updating the will leaving their families in unending wrangles. While digital platforms help update one’s will at a low cost, estate planning lawyers still play a critical role. Not only do they help prepare and update this legal document but also execute it upon your demise. Here are more reasons you should engage an estate planning lawyer Bismarck ND.

State Laws Rule Estate Plans

State laws outline what can be included in a will, who can act as a personal representative, the lawyer’s financial power, among other crucial legal factors. For example, Florida state laws require the personal representative to be related to the testator by marriage or blood; if not, a state resident. Many testators are oblivious of this fact and appoint friends and relatives living out of the state to act in this capacity. Engaging estate planning lawyers will help avoid such mistakes.

To Protect Beneficiaries

A while ago, estate planning was popular among wealthy folks. However, the trend has changed as more middle-class families find it important to plan for when their primary breadwinner dies. Even if you’re only leaving a second home, you need to decide who receives the property upon death.

The primary objective of estate planning is to designate heirs for your assets. Without an estate plan, the court will be required to decide who inherits your assets on your behalf. The process can be grueling to your family, not to mention the number of fees racked up.

Enlisting the help of an estate planning lawyer beforehand protects your family from all such problems. The lawyer also helps distribute the property fairly as they are more acquainted with the family.

Update Legal Documents When Necessary

Wills need to be updated to reflect changes in your financial status. If the documents are ready, estate planning lawyers review them carefully to determine areas that need to be updated. Some wills need a simple codicil while others require a thorough re-evaluation to reduce estate taxes or avoid probate.

Ensure the Document Complies with the Existing Law

Enlisting the help of an estate planning attorney ensures your documents are drafted according to the current state law. Trust laws change from time to time, hence working with a lawyer ensures your plan fits the parameter of the state law.

Documents are Drafted and Executed Professionally

While online wills or fill-in-the-blank provide a quick fix to hiring an estate planner to draft the will, they may not have the legal backing. The platform only provides information on how to make the document valid.

One of the features that make a will valid is witnesses; online templates can’t account for their presence. In addition, the witnesses need to attest that they saw other witnesses sign. Estate planning attorneys help draft the document professionally and customize it to specific situations and goals. Also, they help make the documents official, arrange for witnesses, and notarize public signatures.

Get Legal Advice Regarding Asset Titling

A common misconception about wills is that they cover all your assets automatically. On the contrary, some types of beneficiary designations on assets like life insurance are inherited independently unless you take steps to make them work together.

Engaging estate planning lawyers should help you review the assets, retitle the accounts and property, and change the beneficiary designations. This often-overlooked step helps avoid the time-consuming probate proceedings upon the death of the testator.

Deal with Complex Family Situations

Estate planning is not always smooth sailing in the event of certain complex family situations like:

  • The testator is in a second marriage
  • You have more than one business
  • You want to donate all or some of your property to charity
  • You have property in more than one state
  • You have substantial assets in IRAs and 401(k)s

All such situations can’t be addressed by drafting a will via online platforms. The testator should consider enlisting the help of a lawyer to address the complexities of the situation. Otherwise, the state’s department of revenue and the probate lawyer may receive the largest chunk of the estate.

What You Should Know About Child Custody


Divorce takes a heavy toll not only on the two partners but also on the children. Child custody is one of the most important issues in a divorce because it has far-reaching consequences on the child’s emotional growth and psychological well-being. Although every parent wants what’s best for the child’s current and future well-being, it’s not always easy to agree 100% on all the issues. Luckily, a custody attorney will help a divorcing couple settle contentious issues regarding child guardianship.

Before we dive into the factors that influence child custody decisions, it’s important to know the different types of child custody agreements.

Legal Custody

Legal custody gives a parent the right and responsibility to make major decisions on the child’s behalf. These decisions are critical to a child’s social welfare. Such decisions include the school the child attends, religious upbringing, medical treatment, sports, and social events that the child attends. In North Dakota, legal custody is known as decision-making responsibility. Both parents may have legal custody of the child. This means that they must consult each other when making decisions for the child. But when only one parent has legal custody, they don’t need to consult the other parent when making decisions. Aspects of legal care may change from state to state. A custody attorney in Bismarck, North Dakota, will help you understand all legal custody aspects.

Physical Custody

Physical custody designates one parent who lives with the child on a full-time basis. In this case, the child lives with one parent most of the time, while the other parent is granted visitation rights or some other form of parenting time. The parent with physical custody is often referred to as the custodial parent. In more than 51% of custody decisions, divorcing couples agree that the mother should become the custodial parent.

Sole Custody

This is when one parent has sole legal and physical guardianship of the child. This is largely the case when the courts deem one parent to be unfit, often because of drug and alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or neglect. When one parent has sole custody, they’ll make all the child’s decisions without requiring approval from the other parent.

Joint Custody

Joint guardianship allows both parents to continue sharing the rights and responsibilities of raising their child on an equal basis. This means joint physical custody and joint legal care. In this case, an arrangement is made for the child to spend equal time with both parents. Additionally, both parties must consult with each other when making decisions for the child. A custody lawyer will help a separating couple come up with an arrangement that serves the child’s best interests. This is necessary so that the child can grow in a stable environment. Joint care is the ideal agreement that most divorcing couples strive to have.

When parents cannot agree on child guardianship on their own or with the help of custody attorneys, it’s up to the courts to make the decision. These are the factors that will influence the court’s decision when determining child custody.

  • The ability of each parent to nurture, love, and provide guardianship to the child.
  • The financial ability of either parent to provide clothing, shelter, medical needs, and other child expenses.
  • The moral fitness, mental and physical health of the parents.
  • How a child’s social and school life will be affected by the changes.
  • If the court determines that the child is mature and reasonable enough to make an independent decision, the court will factor in the child’s preferences.
  • The willingness of a parent to facilitate and foster a relationship between the other parent and the child.
  • The safety, stability, and efficiency of each parent’s home environment.

Child custody is one of the most stressful aspects of a divorce. No parent wants to feel alienated from their children, especially after a separation from their spouse. A custody lawyer will help you and your partner come to a fair child care agreement that will serve your child’s best interests and will also be fair to you and your ex-partner.

Custody And Guardianship: Five Questions For Your Divorce Attorney

In the United States, it is reported that divorce or separation affects one out of two marriages. If you are getting divorced, and there are children involved, it is important to address the matter of guardianship and child custody. Here are five questions to ask your divorce attorney about child custody to be sure that your rights of guardianship and custody are protected and represented in the divorce process.


What Is The Difference Between Guardianship And Custody?

Parenting, guardianship, and custody are all terms that refer to relationships that parents have with children. Sometimes it can also apply to other individuals who are involved in your children’s lived as well. Custody refers primarily to the relationship between children and their parents. Guardianship, on the other hand, is a term that is a bit broader. It can refer to children, but it can also be a form of protection for older individuals who may not be completely self-sufficient. In these kinds of instances, guardianship can also pertain to wills, will writing, and estate planning.

Do I Need A Custody Attorney For My Case?

In the case of divorce, it is not uncommon for emotions to get very intense. This is particularly true for child custody cases. In order to keep things reasonable, it is best for you to retain an attorney. A custody lawyer will make sure that you understand your rights in this particular case. Also, the attorney will complete all the other paperwork, negotiate with your ex-spouse, and make the claim for custody on your behalf.

Which Custody Laws Pertain To My Case?

This is a key question, since the laws concerning child custody matters are different from state-to-state all across the country. With this in mind, the success of your request for custody of your child will hinge upon checking all boxes of the laws of the state where your child is living. For this very reason, you should contact a family law attorney who resides in the state where your child lives. This is the best way to be sure that you find out all the laws that relate to your particular case.

What Is Child Support?

Any money that is paid to the custodial parent in order to cover the living expenses of the child that the parent has custody of is considered child support. These expenses relate to clothing shelter and food, for example. The particulars of how much is awarded in child support vary from state-to-state and case-to-case. Ideally, child support payments are agreed upon by the parents. However, this is not always the case; and when this occurs, the payment requirement is supplemented with a court order. It is not always easy to enforce the child support agreement.

What Is “Best Interest Of The Child”?

When the courts make the statement “best interest of the child”, they are saying that every decision for the child now and in the future must be made keeping in mind what is going to be of most benefit for that child. This phrase is a concept that relates to custody matters as well as guardianship requests. The way that the “best interest of the child” is defined varies from state-to-state. But in general, the parameters include the child having a constructive, positive relationship with both parents, if that is at all possible.

Make sure that you get the best legal help possible if you are getting involved in a child custody case. It is important to have good chemistry with your divorce lawyer; but above all, it is important to find a divorce lawyer who is experienced in child custody cases. Questions can arise and the case can become extremely complicated. When there are lots of details and regulations involved, each decision, and every move, counts. So be sure that the attorney you select has the determination and passion to win the case for you because it will impact the future for years to come.

Divorce Checklist: Documents You Should Show Your Divorce Attorney

Data from the CDC estimates that the U.S. divorce rate is 3.2 per 1,000 population as of 2014. If you are planning for a divorce, the best thing you can do is engage with divorce attorneys. You also need to be well-prepared and have important documents ready. These are some of the essential documents you will need to show your divorce lawyers so that they can help you plan for your divorce.

Individual and Business Income Tax Returns

Finances are usually the annoyance for most divorce cases. This is because finances influence other aspects of divorce, such as alimony and child support. Depending on your state laws, you will need to document your individual and business tax returns for the last five years. During divorce proceedings, the court requires all parties to provide accurate and updated tax return records. This is also applicable to couples who jointly file taxes. Your divorce attorney will also advise you to fill any unfilled tax returns before the divorce. Accurate and updated tax returns records serve as a reference and guide the court during the marital property division. Having them ready will be a big boost to your divorce case.

Bank and Credit Card Information

In addition to your tax records, you will also need to have important bank information well-documented. You should list all the joint and individual bank accounts belonging to you and your spouse and their current account balances. Additionally, you will need to document all the credit cards held by you and your spouse. You should also have records documenting the current income of you and your spouse. You should supply your divorce attorneys with as much financial information as you can. Your financial records and tax information will enable a court to establish the marital standard of living, which largely influences a divorce settlement.

Marriage Certificate, Prenuptial Agreement, and Separation Agreement

A marriage certificate is proof that you are officially married to your spouse, hence entitled to a divorce. Without a marriage certificate, your divorce case may take longer as your divorce attorneys explore other legal avenues. You should have the original marriage certificate or a copy of it. If you had a prenuptial agreement, you must provide your divorce lawyer with a copy. The same goes for a separation agreement. These documents will help your family attorney fast-track your divorce case, saving you time and money in the process.

Children’s Birth Certificate, School Information and Child Care Expenses

If you had children during your marriage, it is important to have copies of their birth certificates. If you adopted a child, the adoption certificate would come in handy. During and after the divorce, you want to safeguard the welfare of your children so that they are not deeply affected by your divorce. Your children’s education is a priority, and courts may analyze your child’s school information when ruling on child custody. Additionally, documenting your child care expenses will ensure that your child’s lifestyle is not affected after the divorce.

Life Insurance Policies, Mortgages, and Loan Documents

If you or your spouse hold a life insurance policy, your divorce attorneys will help you analyze what changes will happen after the divorce. Your family lawyer will also need all copies of your mortgages and other loans recorded in your name or your spouse’s. These documents provide crucial information that your attorney will rely on to build a strong case.

Divorce cases may drag on for months or years before they conclude. However, when divorce attorneys have sufficient information about your case, it may conclude much faster. When you are preparing for a divorce, you should obtain as much information as you can. If you cannot obtain crucial information because your spouse is unwilling to supply you with some documents, your family attorney will help you find legal means to compel your spouse. You may feel overwhelmed by the entire process during a divorce, but a good divorce lawyer will walk you through.

Tricky Legal Situations That Keep Coming Up Thanks To COVID-19

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When it comes to COVID-19, many of us think of the obvious — people out of work, businesses temporarily or permanently closed, wearing masks, and staying six feet apart. Earning significantly less and taking precautions not to get the virus is just the beginning. There are several other legal implications of the global pandemic and some surprising ones at that.

Here are some of the trickiest legal situations that have been increasingly common in recent months.

The Cost Of Doing Business: Financial Fallout, Aid, and Bankruptcy

Due to closures and partial re-openings, many businesses were and/or remain eligible to receive aid to keep their companies afloat. Small business loans, the COVID-19 RELIEF for Small Businesses Act of 2020, and emergency or disaster relief funds are just a few of the options available to business owners all across the country. These options are not infallible, however. For months, there was such a high demand for this aid, there was a backlog for a good deal of the businesses trying to get it. For some, it is too little, too late — or simply not enough.

Unfortunately, that means businesses are filing for bankruptcy at record-breaking rates. “This year, 424 companies have gone bankrupt through August 9, surpassing the number of filings during any period since 2010,” Business Insider writes. How do you know if bankruptcy is the right option for you as a small business owner or entrepreneur?

Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is one possible option to give business owners the ability to make significantly lower payments and get back on their feet. Chapter 7 provides relief is closing is inevitable.

Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer if you have any further questions! Many bankruptcy lawyers offer a free consultation, giving you the opportunity to ask questions and educate yourself without breaking the bank.

The Complications Of Estate Planning

Will writing and estate planning are never straightforward — and these things can be infinitely complicated by tragedy or hardships like the global pandemic. Right now, there are people all over the U.S. who may be evicted from their apartments, or unable to make their next mortgage payment. That makes the particulars of estate planning and will writing especially pressing.

If you own a home, the coronavirus can put things into perspective. Who will inherit your land, your assets, and/or your debts if you die? Now is the time to work out the answer to these questions, not when it is too late. A lawyer can help, whether you need help with a basic understanding of will writing or need help with the particulars. If you do not currently own a home and a recently deceased relative left you ownership of his or her estate, it may be a matter of having an affordable place to live — or not. Taxes on inherited land is convoluted and tricky. Plus, it varies by state. Talk to a lawyer to parse out the specifics of your inheritance.

A Growing Divorce Rate

Unfortunately, bankruptcy lawyers are not the only ones that are especially busy right now and will continue to be especially busy after the pandemic. Divorce lawyers are also experiencing a surprising influx of new clients. Thanks to quarantine, closures, working from home, and unemployment, married couples are spending more time together than ever before — and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

“Job losses, caring for at-risk elderly parents, arguments over what’s safe, and disagreements over school reopening are all taking a toll,” The Wall Street Journal writes.

With any luck, your marriage will make it through. If it doesn’t, you are not alone. Seek appropriate legal counsel about negotiating the division of assets and making difficult decisions, like determining child custody arrangements.

We are in unprecedented times. In a typical year, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. In years preceding COVID-19, it was not uncommon for millions of people and businesses to file for bankruptcy. There is certainly no shame in filing for bankruptcy or dealing with sticky legal situations now. Do not go it alone. Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer, attorney, or divorce lawyer for any legal help you may need.